Hints for your dog's dental care
If you have a puppy it would be a good idea to start cleaning his teeth regularly. A puppy loves to please and it may be easier to train him. After about three years of age, tartar build up happens and you will notice discoloration of the molars at the back if you have not been cleaning his teeth until now. If your dog is older it is likely he will have bad breath and possibly bleeding gums, a sure sign that harmful bacteria is doing its work. If this is the case, a visit to the veterinarian is recommended. If your dog is diagnosed with gingivitis, a common oral disease, it may be necessary to have professional cleaning which is costly, both health-wise for an older dog and pocket-wise for the vet bill.
If your are given the OK to take care of your dog's teeth at home, all well and good. Some dogs take to this procedure quickly and easily, others don't. It may take a few days or a few weeks to perfect. Plenty of patience and praise is required and needless to say, any sign of pressure or aggression on your part will ruin the experience. If at any time your dog shows resistance or balks, stop the oral hygiene treatment immediately and try again the next day.
Daily brushing is the only way to remove plaque and tartar build-up, though dry food, nutritious 'chews' and marrow or beef soup bones will help somewhat. Nowadays there's dog toothpaste in a variety of flavors, dog toothbrushes, finger-brushes, gels and sprays. Your dog may be sensitive to the noise of the spray, so bear this in mind before choosing it. Never use human toothpaste as it is harmful for dogs to swallow this.
With you both sitting close at eye level, put a dab of toothpaste or gel on your finger and let your dog smell and lick it off. Put some more on your finger and with your other hand use your fingers to open and gently pull back your dog's upper lip exposing the teeth and gum. Quickly swipe all the way along from the molars to the front, stop and let your dog lick. He will enjoy this and when you feel the time is right repeat on the lower lip. Stop, let your dog lick and praise him. Do the same thing on the other side and praise often.
This practice may take a few days before you feel your dog is ready for the toothbrush. The finger-brush is less 'invasive' and your dog may prefer this. Put some gel or toothpaste on the brush and gently pull back his upper lip again. Starting with the molars, brush in a circular motion getting as far up into the gum line as possible. Clean just a couple of teeth at one time before stopping and praising. Continue on the lower lip and on the other side of his mouth. Be patient, persistent, gentle and playful.
Before long your dog will look forward to this.